“All right,” she began, “I want you to concentrate on the muscles in your feet. Right now they’re tense, but you can consciously relax them as I tell you to. Begin now to relax the muscles in your feet. Feel them start to loosen. Now the muscles in your legs.”
Working her way patiently and carefully, she led him through the process of relaxation.
“Your vision is becoming unfocused. It’s hard to keep your eyes open. You may close them at any time you wish.”
His lids drooped slowly...a good sign. If he were doing it deliberately, the action would have been faster, more definite.
“The chair on which you’re sitting is unusually soft, like a cloud. Feel that cloud wrap around you, warm and comforting. You’re floating on that cloud. Relax and enjoy the sensation of floating.” He wasn’t sitting stiffly any longer. Obviously he desperately wanted this to work. If he’d chosen to resist her, she suspected he could have easily done so.
“Just relax and float as I count backward from twenty to one. By the time I reach one, you’ll be in a state of total relaxation. You will still be able to hear my voice and to answer me, but other noises will fade into the background. They won’t register or disturb you.”
She began to count, and he responded well. “One,” she concluded. “You are now in a hypnotic state and can respond easily to questions I will ask. Eliot, please raise your right index finger.”
The slow, almost hesitant lifting of his finger told her he had at least achieved a light trance. It was all she’d hoped for this first time. His will to succeed seemed the only thing that sufficiently overcame his need to be in control.
“Did you come by my house last night?” she asked immediately.
“No,” he answered, his voice slow and quiet.
“I’d like to speak to the one who came by my house last night.”
Silence. She dropped the subject and changed direction.
“Did you dream about me last night?”
“You’re dreaming that dream again. Describe to me what’s going on and how it makes you feel.”
He did. In an emotionless voice he described the actions of a man watching her, coming up to her room, putting his hands around her throat and squeezing the life from her. He reported the dream in the third person, always using the pronoun he, never I, as though repeating a gruesome tale he’d heard or read. ”He climbed through a window.” ”He wrapped his hands around your throat.” The Eliot persona had not been there.
“How did the man who choked me feel in your dream?”
“He felt excited and happy. When he takes someone else’s life, he feels that life going inside him, making him more alive and more powerful.” Eliot’s detached recitation of those feelings made her cringe in spite of her training and experience. Even accustomed as she was to unexpected personality developments, she found it hard to reconcile such dissolute emotions with the man who’d come into her office.
“Who did you see choke me?” she asked, surprised to find her voice sounded hoarse.
Eliot hesitated, frowned. “I saw myself.”
“What is your name?”
“What does the man who choked me look like?” Frequently a multiple personality saw himself as different in appearance.
“Tall,” Eliot said. “Brown hair, gray suit. He looks like me.”
Leanne bit her lip and forced herself to remain professional and detached. The situation did not look good for Eliot.
“I’d like to speak to the one who came to my house last night.”
Again silence. But that did not rule out the possibility of another identity. The personalities frequently chose their own times to reveal themselves.
“Have you dreamed of murdering another woman besides me?” She wanted to hear his description of the woman he feared he’d murdered.
“You’re dreaming again about the woman, the last dream you had about her, the one that resulted in her death. Describe to me what you see in your dream.”
His forehead creased. The words came slowly, reluctantly, as though he had to drag them forth. “He’s sitting with her at her dining room table. They’re eating. She made crab legs for him. He loves crab legs. Tonight they taste especially good because he’s anticipating what he’s going to do. He’s been planning it for weeks. Every time he crushes a shell, he savors the sensation and thinks of how her throat will feel when it crumples beneath his fingers.”
An involuntary shudder ran down her spine at his words. “What does the woman look like?” she asked.
“Red hair. Small. Nice body. She’s wearing a tight, purple dress. She has long red nails.”
“Tell me about when he chokes her.”
Eliot shifted uncomfortably. A scowl crossed his features.
“Relax,” she soothed. “It isn’t happening now. You’re only reporting it, like you’re watching a movie.”
Slowly the scowl eased. “They’re sitting on the sofa now. It’s a small sofa with big flowers. They’re drinking wine. He reaches over and takes her glass from her. He sets both glasses on the coffee table then turns to her and smiles. He puts his hand on her throat and feels her pulse beating. He’s very excited thinking about how he has the power to stop that beating. He kisses her, and he knows she thinks he’s going to make love to her, but tonight he’s going to satisfy his passion, not hers.”
Leanne involuntarily raised a hand to her lips as if she could feel the treacherous kiss. With an effort she forced her hand back down to her desk and tried to listen objectively.
“He squeezes her throat tighter and pulls back so he can watch. Her eyes come open now, and he likes that. He likes to see her fear. She pushes against him, but it’s no use. He’s much stronger than she is. Two of the red tips break off her nails and then she stops pushing. He lets her fall onto the sofa. He can feel the energy from her, and he wants it all for himself. This is only the beginning. When he leaves her, he thinks how she has to stay behind and he’s free.”
Eliot stopped talking then, the story at an end, and Leanne realized she was clutching her own throat protectively.
The murder, related in a detached monotone, had the same strong effect as his description of his dream of her. She supplied the emotion that was missing from his voice.
She lowered her hands to her desk, spreading her fingers and taking in the familiar, cool solidity of the polished wood.
Eliot Kane sat across from her, his square jaw eased, long fingers draped over the ends of the chair arms, thigh muscles delineated by the soft material of his slacks. He looked astonishingly inflexible in spite of his relaxed state. He also looked astonishingly normal for someone who had just related such a bizarre tale.
Though, she reminded herself, one of her case studies in school had been of a woman with the face of an angel who’d calmly hacked up her husband and children when they tracked mud across her newly-mopped kitchen floor.
“What is the name of this woman you—he—just murdered?” she asked, striving to maintain a clinical tone.
“Where did you meet her?”
“I’ve never met her.”
“If you’ve never met her, how did you know her name?” He could have garnered that information from the news, but she waited to hear how he would answer.
“I don’t know her. He does.”
“Who is he?”
“The one who killed her.”
“What is his name?”
He hesitated, his brow furrowed as he apparently searched for the answer. She held her breath, waiting. Would Mr. Hyde emerge? “I don’t know,” he finally said.
“Why did you kill this woman?”
“I didn’t kill her.”
“Why did the man in your dream kill her?”
“He wanted to.”
“Was the person who came to my house the same man who killed Kay Palmer?”
“Was the man who choked me in your dream the same man who killed Kay Palmer?”
“You said that killing her made him feel free. What did you mean by that?”
“I don’t know.”
“Was she threatening him in some way?”
“I don’t know.”
“Was she blackmailing him?”
“I don’t know.”
“But killing her made him feel free?”
She continued to ask questions but received only the same indefinite, circuitous answers.
“I’m going to count to three,” she finally told him, “and you’ll be wide awake. You’ll remember everything we talked about. One...coming to the surface, waking up. Two...almost there, almost fully awake. Three.”
He opened his eyes, sat erect in the chair, compressed his lips and squared his jaw, actions that belied the torment in his gaze.
She should be frightened of this man. He could be a murderer, could be lying to her, could be planning her murder. Yet in spite of that, his sturdy determination against overwhelming odds touched something deep inside her, made her heart ache for him, made her want desperately to help him.
He shook his head slowly and ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t understand what’s going on. I’ve always been in complete control of my life. I’ve always known exactly who I am, where I’m going, what I’m going to do, what I did yesterday and the day before that and the year before that. How could something like this happen?”
“We don’t really know what’s happening at this point,” she temporized.
“I couldn’t have murdered that woman.” He straightened his shoulders and met her gaze dead on. “If there’s a part of me that’s capable of murder, that actually did what I saw in my dream, I want rid of it. That’s why I’m here. Tell me what I need to do next.”
She liked that, liked his obstinacy, his positive attitude.
“There are a lot of things we can do next,” she answered. “If—and I emphasize the word if because we have a lot further to go before we make a definite diagnosis of multiple personality disorder. If we want to investigate that possibility, the first thing we do is search for the source. When a personality splits off, the split usually occurs in childhood as a result of abuse or some traumatic incident. The person can’t stand the pain, so he or she dissociates into another self.”
He waved a hand impatiently. “I understand the basic premise. The only traumatic incident I can think of was the automobile accident that killed both my parents and injured me when I was three. But that was over thirty years ago, and these problems only began recently.”
“The personalities can remain dormant for years, until they’re needed again. That could also be the source of your claustrophobia. Were you trapped inside the car for a long time?”
“I was too young to remember, but according to Mom—my adopted mother—I was in the car several hours before somebody driving by saw us and stopped to help. Yeah,” he admitted, “I guess that could be the source of my claustrophobia.”
As well as the source of a personality fragmentation. But she didn’t express her thought aloud. They had a lot more work to do before she could make even a tentative diagnosis.
“Has anything upsetting happened to you recently, anything that might dredge up the feelings of being trapped inside that car with your parents dying?”
He shook his head, one side of his mouth quirking up in an expression that was more a grimace than a smile. “My life was completely normal and uneventful until all this started.”
Though she suspected he could—and would—have blocked any such recent trauma from his conscious memory, Leanne didn’t press him. “Okay, so what do you remember about your parents’ accident?”
“Nothing,” he admitted reluctantly, confirming her suspicions of his ability to block distressing events. “In fact, I have only hazy memories of my mother and father, and some of those probably came from pictures and stories. Mom and Dad, friends of my real parents, adopted me. I had a perfectly normal, happy childhood, I might add.”
“Oh?” She raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Exactly how do you define normal?”
He smiled and shrugged. “I don’t suppose you get many people in here who say that. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but mine couldn’t have been any more normal. I know the accident must have been a shock, but I was so young, it had no lasting effect. I’ve always adored my adoptive parents, and they’ve always been there for me. I went to school, played football, made decent grades, had a lot of friends. Dad’s an investment banker. He wanted me to follow in his footsteps, and I wanted to.” He shrugged. “Except for the mundane details, like what we had for Sunday dinner, that’s about it.”
She sensed that he was telling the truth...at least as far as he knew the truth. “I’d like to have another session with hypnosis and explore the accident. When do you want to come in again?”
“Tomorrow,” he stated firmly. “I’d like to come tomorrow, but I’ll understand if you want to go home at a reasonable hour for a change.”
His gritty determination coming to the forefront again. “Tomorrow at five,” she agreed, making a notation on her calendar.
Eliot rose from the recliner, checking the gold watch on his wrist. “Damn, it’s nearly seven o’clock. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to keep you so late.”
She looked at the wall of windows, surprised to see that they were growing dark. She hadn’t realized so much time had passed.
“No problem,” she assured him, but her failure to notice the passage of time bothered her. She had turned off her timer for fear it would interrupt the hypnotic session; even so, she always had a sixth sense of the approaching end of the hour—always until tonight.
True, Eliot’s case was interesting, out of the ordinary, but she couldn’t afford to let her interest get out of hand. She couldn’t become personally involved. The thought of that terrified her every bit as much as the possibility that he might be a cold-blooded killer.
The mentally ill had the capacity to murder the soul of anyone who cared too deeply for them. For more reasons than professional ethics, she had to maintain a proper distance from the case...from Eliot Kane.
He extended his hand, and she took it, enjoying the feel of his flesh against hers even as she ordered herself to ignore such inappropriate, dangerous feelings.
“I really appreciate your working me into your schedule like this,” he said. “Since it’s so late, let me take you to dinner. It’s the least I can do.”
For a fleeting, insane instant she wanted to go with him, to pretend theirs was an ordinary relationship.
But it wasn’t.
“Thanks, but I couldn’t do that,” she said, distressed to hear her words come out in a breathless manner. “Doctor-patient ethics.” She made a slight movement of withdrawal from his fingers, and he released her immediately.
“Tomorrow at five, then,” he said and strode from her office looking every inch the confident, successful businessman with no hint of the tortured person who’d come to her for help. She could see what he meant when he said he’d always been in control of his life. In spite of their relationship, his dependency on her skills, he left her feeling as though he was the one in charge.
She listened for the outer office door to close, then began clearing her desk. Her brief vision of dinner with Eliot Kane had been tantalizing—seeing his smile from across a table rather than a desk, being allowed to savor the tough but gentle touch of his hand on hers. Eliot Kane was a dangerous man, a possible threat to her bodily safety as well as her emotional safety.
The outer door opened and closed again. “Eliot, did you forget something?” she called, and the idea that he had returned both excited and frightened her. Would it be the charming Eliot or the man who’d stood across the street from her house? Which one was the more threatening?
The door to her inner office slammed open.